Superman III (1983)PG

CapeHalf a capeTent

The Silly Superman. The Salkinds (father and son producers), having fired director Richard Donner midway through the second film for doing Superman right, insisted that the new movie be made campy. They probably said something like what cartoon producer Leon Schlesinger once told Chuck Jones and his other animators: “Put in lot’tha joketh, fellath, joketh are funny.” This fucks up the film rather badly, especially since the level of humorosity in the attempted jokes is generally abysmal, but some positive elements help to partially save the movie. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of unfunny comedy to suffer through. Those who truly hate unfunny comedy may find this movie harder to sit through than Superman IV. They may ask: why, oh why, did you give this movie just as good a rating as Superman II? Mainly, because #2 was forgettable. This one left far more vivid recollections. And fortunately, most of the worst stuff is concentrated near the beginning. The first third is one painful squirm- in- your- seat- with- embarrassment scene after another, but then the second half gets more super.

Richard Pryor guest-stars as Gus Gorman, the world’s stupidest superintelligent computer genius. He makes his character way too clownish, but injects a little freshness into the series nonetheless.

Margot Kidder is written out of the story by a pathetically transparent device... because she went and told the Salkinds how much they suck. See? There is something to like about her.

This film contains some memorable scenes, and some incredibly hokey scenes — sometimes, the same ones. Like the scene where Superman, turned evil by misformulated kryptonite, super-fights himself in a junkyard, with the “good” Superman being represented by his Clark Kent persona. Call me a dork, but that’s my favorite scene in the movie. Reeve’s delineation of the various character roles — nerdy Clark, Superman, and Evil Superman — is stagey but effective. Nothing can be taken seriously, but the climactic battle, unlike that in Superman II, is actually thrilling — enough so to keep the movie afloat (barely). And furthermore, it’s imaginative — they throw in one crazy thing after another that you don’t expect. The nuttiness, and the sparky smoky effects, would be right at home in a Japanese giant monster movie.

The John Williams theme music is again worked over by Ken Thorne here, and this time he does more poorly than in his previous attempt. Whenever he’s not relying on John Williams’ theme, he’s dull. Still, it’s thrilling to hear that opening motif on french horn, at the moment when Good Superman finds his way back...